MANATEE -- Nearly 700 Manatee County students competed against one another in an array of tasks such as building a plane, a robot or dragster Saturday at the Ninth Annual Technology Student Association District Competition at Southeast High School.
Among those who walked away winners were Manatee High senior Amber Gould, who competed in the dragster and problem solving categories as well as part of the tractor team.
"I liked seeing everyone trying their hardest and seeing everything come together after all their hard work," Gould said. "I think I did pretty well."
Gould has been involved in the TSA for seven years, she said. She joined thinking it was interesting and something different. Now she is looking at turning it into a college path.
"I'm thinking about going into biomedical engineering or some other aspect of the medical field," Gould said. "This definitely helped in
fluence that choice."
On Saturday she walked away with a second-place finish in the problem solving challenge.
Students from elementary, middle and high schools participated in the event. Manatee County is the only school district in Florida to host its own local competition.
"It's because of our teachers who go the extra mile to provide this opportunity for students," said Doug Wagner, district director of adult career and technical education.
The event helps students to prepare for state competition and gives them an extra opportunity to participate.
"There are going to need technical skills or need to be technically literate," Wagner said. "They are being prepared for the future."
Wagner took time to go around and greet the many parents in attendance, all of whom he said told him how excited their children were, many unable to sleep, and the competition was all they could talk about.
"We do the best we can and continue to grow," Wagner said.
Lee Ann Daniel, an eighth-grader at Haile Middle School, was excited to be back at the competition.
"It's amazing," Daniel said. "There's a lot of different things that you can do."
Kyle Holbrook, a product of the Manatee school district and TSA turned engineering teacher at Braden River Middle School, was happy watching his students compete in the same program he once enjoyed so much.
"It's good to give back to them and see them in a competitive setting," Holbrook said. "You have kids from every type of background and it doesn't matter."
Holbrook said his students began preparing the second week of school, meeting twice a week in addition to robotics' additional meeting and classes.
Cristofer Jacinto, a 12th-grader at Braden River High School, enjoyed his final district competition.
"The hard work pays off at the end," Jacinto said.
His payoff was winning second place in dragster category.
Jacinto also entered the problem solving event and says he really loves the sense of teamwork in TSA.
Elementary schools also participated in a separate event to build the best catapult.
Collin Chaplin, a fifth-grader at Freedom Elementary, was up for the task and said building the catapult was the best part. He and two fellow students built their catapult out of wood, a spoon and rubber bands.
"It's fun," Chaplin said as he happily watched the awards presentation and held on to his medal.
Chaplin's mother, Katherine Stefaniak, loves what TSA has provided her son.
"I think it's great," Stefaniak said. "Anything that encourages their imagination and they can build things, that's great."
Jessica De Leon, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.